Thomas Sowell

In an era when so many people seem to be focused on "the first" of any group to do something, maybe it was not so surprising when someone on television pointed out the first Australian to play in a Super Bowl.

After all the hoopla over Barack Obama's becoming the first person of his complexion to become President, it was perhaps inevitable that there would be a small echo of that when Michael Steele became the first black head of the Republican National Committee.

For those of us who are still so old-fashioned as to be concerned about someone's ability to do the job, the question about Michael Steele is whether he can pick up the shattered pieces of the Republicans and put them together again to form a winning party. That is going to a whale of a job, for anybody of any complexion, "gender" or whatever.

As a political candidate, the question about Michael Steele would be the usual ones about his ideology, his track record in office and the like.

As chairman of a political party, however, the question is whether Michael Steele can represent that party to the public. This is especially important when the party is out of power and has neither a President in the White House nor a leader commanding a majority in either House of Congress.

One of the huge and perennial handicaps of the Republicans is that they seldom have anybody who can articulate their case to the public. It is hard to win the White House with candidates like Bob Dole and John McCain.

That was why Governor Sarah Palin was such a sensation in arousing the grassroots Republicans. She could talk!

Try to name five articulate Republicans. Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln come to mind. After that, you have to rack your brain.

Newt Gingrich has been good at the low-key, understated kind of discussion that a professor-- which he once was-- conducts around a seminar table.

But the rough and tumble of politics is not a seminar. Bill Clinton completely out-talked Gingrich and the whole Republican leadership during the government shutdown crisis of 1995.

It was painful watching the Republicans trying to explain the simple truth half as well as Clinton promoted a lie. Republicans got blamed for shutting down the government, even though they had appropriated plenty of money to keep the government running.

Michael Steele can talk. That is even rarer among Republicans than being black.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate